Campus in shock - UHM advances alert system


Campus in shock - UHM advances alert system


Issue date: 4/18/07 Section: News
By Tiffany Hill
Ka Leo Associate News Editor

With the horrific massacre shooting that occurred Monday at Virginia Tech, many universities, including the University of Hawaii at Manoa, have turned their focus onto whether they would be prepared for similar situation.

The person most in charge of coordinating disaster relief efforts is Mel Won, the UH Emergency Planning Coordinator. Emergency planning includes a variety of emergency types, from natural disasters such as the earthquakes last October, to terrorist attacks and school shootings. The university has also recently taken steps for a more advanced campus-wide alert notification.

"ITS purchased the automated notification service that opens up to all the campuses ... we are in the process of putting together and creating the procedures so it can work," said Won.

Won is currently undergoing training in the U.S. Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program in order to receive federal funding for the university's emergency planning program, including funding for expenditures such as an emergency response center, which is currently a conference room in Hawai'i Hall.

"[The training] encompasses all kinds of disasters," said Won, but added that it does not necessarily focus on shootings. The program is focused on training Won to be prepared in civil emergency management.

Won said that the shooting in Virginia is an isolated case but that the UH emergency plan has included provisions for terrorist attacks. According to the emergency planning Web site, a mass casualty shooting falls under the category of terrorist attacks.

"The emergency plan is supposed to encompass all types of disasters," said Won, but added that all types deserve equal attention.

"I think [being prepared for a school shooting] is something that the university will work together and decide what to do. This is something that is a priority and I can tell you right now that it is a priority of the administration," said Won.

Won added that some time this month, the university is going to test an alert roster, in which administration officials on a phone tree roster will notify each other as if it was a real emergency. Won is also working with the State Civil Defense concerning hurricane disaster preparedness.

Won's recommendation for students is to become familiar with the emergency plan as it continually being further developed.

Overall Won said he feels the campus is safe. "The worst thing I see is a hurricane [happening on campus]," adding they are improving preparedness regarding natural disasters and have more experience in this area with the floods in 2004, and the earthquakes last semester.
Campus Security

"If a similar situation happened hear [like at Virginia Tech] our protocol would be to secure the scene of the shooting. We would set up a perimeter and secure the area and ... [and then] we would contact HPD," said UH Campus Security Chief Neal Sakamoto, who added that they have a good working relationship with the Honolulu Police Department.

Sakamoto stated that once the scene of the incident is secured, Campus Security would notify the administration, such as UH interim Chancellor Denise Konan, as they would authorize Campus Security operations and also notify the remaining campus.

Sakamoto said, in shooting cases a mass email would be sent to all students and faculty. "We also have telephone notification for the different deans of the different colleges and the would have to notify the rest of the faculty, staff [and] students as fast as possible. We do not have a [public address system].

He stated that the university wants to get a PA system and have discussed its advantages and begun to research prices. "One of the things we noticed after the blackout and earthquake in October was we didn't have a way to notify everybody especially because the power went out so the email went down, then the phone system went down and presently our vehicles don't have any kind of PA"

The PA system on the Campus Security vehicles would allow them to prerecord messages for the different types of emergencies and then during would allow them to drive around campus broadcasting the message.

Sakamoto said he believes that, given the situation and probably limited amount of information, the Virginia Tech Campus Security responded in the best way possible.

"The university has the system now besides the mass email where we can notify people by cell phone, or blackberry or whatever. We [Sakamoto and Won] have been working on that trying to set up the system so we can do a notification with the rest of the campus," Sakamoto said.

Like Won, Sakamoto and his staff are continuing to train in natural disaster preparedness as well, but that they are also discussing terrorist emergencies like a school shooting even though the Virginia Tech campus shooting was the first of its kind.

"It was a rare occurrence and an unusual occurrence, but no matter how much police or security we have we can't prevent everything, we just try to do the best we can," said Sakamoto. "I pray it never [happens here] but I can't say it won't."


Original Source: The Voice - Ka Leo
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Tiffany Hill




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Tiffany Hill, “Campus in shock - UHM advances alert system,” The April 16 Archive, accessed June 24, 2024,